Twice each year, midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy turnover leadership roles, yielding their responsibilities to their incumbent classmates. At the top of the stack is the brigade commander.
The criteria for the one who’ll wear six stripes on his or her collar isn’t quite set in stone; however, most selectees have high grades and respectable peer rankings. Each company officer nominates one rising 1st class midshipman to attend a board before the Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen and Battalion Officers.
Although Midshipman Ian Burgoyne officially assumed this role as the most senior midshipman May 23, he has only recently begun to fully exercise the responsibilities of his post at the onset of the academic year.
Photo by Midshipmen 1/C Jeffrey Kramer
“I’m definitely humbled by the shoes I step into, the people I represent and the task at hand,” said Midshipmen 1st Class Ian Burgoyne, from Darien, Connecticut.
As brigade commander, Burgoyne will lead more than 4,400 midshipmen during the course of the USNA 2018 fall semester. He is expected to execute policy, manage brigade efficiency, monitor morale, and is accountable for brigade conduct.
“Sometimes things will be hard but I know that I'm surrounded by a great team,” said Burgoyne. “I’ve got a great staff.”
Photo by Midshipmen 1/C Jeffrey Kramer
Burgoyne will also act as liaison to the Commandant of Midshipmen, reporting successes or deficiencies and recommending future courses of action. Voicing his excitement to execute his strategy, he described a priority objective on the minds of leadership.
“It's refocusing on the little things - professionalism and upholding standards,” said Burgoyne. “We read a letter from Secretary Mattis about how the lethality of our fighting force is going to come down to the discipline of our small units. It may seem that a room standard or a uniform standard seems far removed from winning wars and accomplishing missions overseas, but it's actually a direct correlation. If you can’t get the little things right to begin with, how do you expect to get them right when you're under pressure, under fire and under stress?”
Photo by MC2 Nathan Burke
Burgoyne said he hopes to impress a three-tier approach upon his fellow classmates:
“First, knowing our sphere and knowing who we influence the most - Then being really deliberate about building the right kind of relationships with those people.”
“The second step is to be a teammate, a friend, a mentor and a resource, but to also hold each other accountable to standards and goals.”
“Lastly is passing the ball. That means developing those around you and allowing them to grow. And maybe sometimes taking a step back, coaching from the sidelines.”
Burgoyne attributes his leadership style to his sports experience.
Photo courtesy of Midshipman 1/C Ian Burgoyne
“I’m a varsity lacrosse player and that's probably been one of the biggest formative experiences I’ve had in terms of leadership here,” said Burgoyne. “When I stepped into a role as a freshman, I looked up to the seniors of the Class of 2016 and they really had a huge impact on me. We try to set this mindset in the lacrosse team of being tough, being accountable and not complaining–just being a good teammate at the end of the day.”
Burgoyne said his experience as a Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education (SHAPE) peer educator also prepared him for his new leadership role.
“I’ve been a peer educator since my sophomore year,” said Burgoyne. “It pushed me to learn something new, learn difficult, challenging material and be an example of respect and positive culture. That’s what SHAPE is all about. It’s prevention through education and it starts with us as SHAPE peer educators in our interactions with other people and midshipmen.”
Burgoyne also challenges brigade leadership to help build a foundation for future leaders.
“Leaders build leaders,” Burgoyne said referring to a slogan from a book he read. “You're only doing your job as a leader if you're building up the people behind you who are going to assume your role.”